When Denise and Tom Genuit moved into their four-bedroom Lutherville-Timonium colonial with their young son Drew, the property was disastrous. The back porch was dilapidated, the yard was a thicket of overgrown trees, and the chimney leaked.
"It was a real mess," sums up Denise. "We even had a set of steps that would float when it rained."
Since both had grown up with mothers who gardened—Denise in Chicago, Tom in his native Germany—they decided to tackle the project on their own. They moved trees, mulched the yard, and even addressed the drainage issues. But by 2008, they realized they were tired of hard labor during what was supposed to be their down time at home.
"We wanted a place where we could relax because we work so hard and lead such busy lives," explains Denise, the practice administrator for University of Maryland Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates. (Tom is the interim chief of surgery and trauma director at Sinai Hospital.) "We wanted to just come home and get away from it all."
For the project, the couple turned to Hans Bleinberger of the award-winning McHale Landscape Design. But when Bleinberger arrived on the scene in 2008, he told the Genuits the project was more extensive than they realized and that there were serious structural issues that needed addressing before he could begin work.
"I told them they really needed to get an architect," says Bleinberger. "Then I could work with that person to see how it will all fit together from a landscape perspective."
The Genuits took the news in relative stride.
"We freaked out a little," admits Denise. "But we were more relieved that someone headed us in the right direction to do a job we would be happy with."
So the couple contracted architect Rob Brennan to build a spectacular, environmentally friendly, two-story addition (complete with a refurbished fireplace and a new bathroom with a built-in sauna). Meanwhile, Bleinberger imported 25 tons of stone to fashion rugged Pennsylvania bluestone pathways and a handcrafted stone wall and refurbished three inoperable ponds.
"The whole project was finished in six weeks," says Bleinberger. "The big deadline was Halloween. My crew even tapped the keg for their party."
Today, the property is rife with spectacular specimen trees and dainty feminine flowers—including pink dianthus, magenta moss roses, and yellow moonbeam
coreopsis—that soften the hardscape and act as a counterpoint to the stone setting.
"Part of the reason I appreciate my garden so much is that in Chicago we really only have three good months of weather," Denise says. "Our springs and falls seem to last forever in Maryland."
And the finished product is just what the doctor ordered.
"We are out here all the time," says Denise, "and I never have shoes on. A summer staple is red wine and s'mores made in the fireplace. All I have to do is come out
here with a book and hear the sound of the running water from the pond, and I fall immediately to sleep. This is truly a living space."